Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown is an area in central Nagasaki, which used to be home to Chinese traders during the Edo period. Today it is a typical colorful “chinatown” district, full of restaurants and shops.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), Japan had a “closed country” policy (Sakoku). This policy meant that nearly all foreigners were prohibited from entering the country, and that trade with the outside world was extremely limited until 1853 when the Americans forced Japan to open for trade. The only major exceptions to the trade restriction was Nagasaki Port, where the Chinese and the Dutch were allowed to conduct business. The Dutch stayed on the reclaimed “Dejima” island, and the Chinese in “Shinchi”.
Nagasaki China Town during the yearly lantern festival. All photos © touristinjapan.com
While the dutch were confined to Dejima, the Chinese were allowed to stay in the city until later in the Edo period. The Chinese were eventually also walled in like the Dutch, when they were confined to the highly guarded Tojin Yashiki quarter. The Chinese kept slightly more rights to move about than the Dutch. The bigger freedom given to the Chinese is also one of the reasons why many Chinese shrines and temples can be found around Nagasaki. Sofuku-ji, Kofuku-ji and Kōshi-byō Shrine are good examples of the influence the Chinese had on Nagasaki.
Near China Town is the former Tojin Yashiki quarter where the Chinese resided after having their privileges reduced. It is an area which is often overlooked by tourists, which is a shame as it had an equally important role in Nagasaki’s history as that of the Dutch Dejima island. There are still a few buildings and streets left in Tojin Yashiki which remain authentic to the old style of the area.
Nagasaki Chinatown is home to the Nagasaki Lantern Festival which takes place in the late winter, during the Chinese New Year celebrations. The lantern festival is highly popular, and thousands of visitors come to experience the impressive illumination of Nagasaki. Though the event goes on for a couple of weeks, it is suggested to book hotels well in advance.
By tram: take tram no.1, no.2 or no.5 to “Shinchi Chinatown“.